Kidney Tumor Ablation: A Nonsurgical Option to Nephrectomy

Some patients with kidney tumors have a high risk of surgical complications because of their age or health status. For those patients, kidney tumor ablation offers a promising option to complete or partial nephrectomy.

Ablation is a nonsurgical procedure that is effective with small tumors. It is much simpler than surgery, as no surgical incision is made. Instead, a probe is inserted through a minute entry point and guided by CT scan to the site of the tumor.

There are two kinds of ablations: Those that heat the tumor, and those that freeze it. The heat-based are radiofrequency ablation and microwave ablation. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) directs radio waves through the probe and destroys the tumor with heat. To freeze the tumor, a process called cryoablation, frigid gases are injected through the probe. We get results comparable to surgery with very low complication rates. In less than 24 hours, the patient is typically ready to assume normal activity.

UCSF is an extraordinary medical center. I joined the staff in 2013, after 10 years at Wake Forest. Research is translated very quickly into patient care here, and I can share my knowledge with world-class colleagues in other specialties while being in one of the best radiology departments in the world. We’ve instituted a tumor board so radiologists can collaborate on cases with other physicians. UCSF is a pioneering site for the imaging and diagnosis of kidney tumors, just what many patients need.

Ronald Zagoria, MD is a professor in residence and chief of the Abdominal Imaging Section in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California, San Francisco. He has performed thousands of kidney tumor ablation procedures. Zagoria earned his medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In 1987, he completed a four-year Diagnostic Radiology residency, and a fellowship in Abdominal Imaging and Interventional Radiology from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Dr. Zagoria was vice-chair and head of the Abdominal Radiology Section (2000-2011), and interim chair in the Department of Radiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine (2011-2012). In 2013, Dr. Zagoria accepted his current position at UCSF and also became vice-chair of Clinical Affairs. He is currently Editor-in-chief of the journal "Emergency Radiology." Dr. Zagoria is a fellow in the American College of Radiology, the Society of Abdominal Radiology, and the European Society of Uroradiology. He has been invited to over 300 lectures and presentations, and he has written over 300 publications, including textbooks, book chapters, journal articles, and abstracts.

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